Reviewed By: Jack Dawson
Image credit: Vox.com
Now that we’re well and truly into this season, I feel comfortable in saying that this series has some of the best pacing yet, and events feel as if they are well and truly moving at a reasonable pace compared to how languid the previous season was. Aside from that, it’s actually nice to see a wedding on this show that doesn’t end with death.
After spending a significant chunk of the last episode waiting outside the House of Black and White, Arya finally gets to see the inside, which is filled with various sygils and Effigies. However after several days of sweeping the floors, she quite reasonably voices objection to this task given that she crossed the Narrow Sea to become an Assassin dammit. And so the Many Faced Men give her an ultimatum to face, is she really committed to becoming No One?
There’s a lot of quiet moments in this scene, and neither Arya nor the audience get much in the way of answers. But I don’t mind so much, it’s nice to have a few quiet moments of atmosphere peppered in with the other extensive scenes of dialogue.
You all know the drill with Cersei by this point, her life is taking a severe nose dive, and the ascendance of Margaery Tyrell doesn’t help matters. Aside from thanking her lucky stars that she didn’t end up marrying Joffrey, Margaery spends her time wrapping Tommen around her little finger, subtly implying that Cersei should be ejected from the Capitol, and making cracks about Cersei directly to the latter’s face.
But Cersei doesn’t scream or shout, deciding instead to go meet the head of the Religious Extremists parading the streets, The High Sparrow. It’s difficult to say how this plot thread will pay off, especially since I get the feeling that both Cersei and the High Sparrow are knowingly playing a dangerous game with each other. But it’s interesting to see the quiet anger present in Cersei this season.
Then we see the intersection of Sansa’s storyline with the Boltons. As the Wardens of the North, the Boltons are having a bit of difficulty ruling it using Terror alone. And so Roose Bolton attempts to impose the arcane and mysterious art of diplomacy on his psychotic son. Sansa, in a rather reasonable fashion, objects to playing nice with the sadists who murdered her Brother and Rightful King of the North Robb Stark, but Littlefinger presents the appealing notion of making a stand and finally taking her place as a meaningful player in the Game of Thrones. It’s nice to see Winterfell again, and the Bolton’s are delightful villains to hate, but I do hope they liven the colour scheme up a bit. Everybody wearing black rather results in a gloomy atmosphere.
Sansa and the Boltons aren’t the only pieces at play in Winterfell, Brienne and Podrck are now firmly on their tail. We actually find out about both characters, and we learn a little about why Brienne is so relentlessly hard on Pod, though I question whether it was the smoothest or neatest way of letting us know. Either way, I get the feeling that Episode 9 will feature these characters in some capacity.
Stannis Baratheon, as much as he’s wonderfully portrayed, is still a loose end on this show, swanning about from place to place without ever setting down and following a storyline through. Now dedicated to winning back the North after demonstrating exactly why he will never be followed willingly, he’s due to leave the Wall without the talisman of Jon Snow as the lost Stark Son. But Jon takes solace in his new position of authority, which he wields with particular precision and care, rewarding those who might not deserve it, and punishing those who certainly do.
Looking back I think Stannis leaving was the only event of note that occurred here, aside from one other loose end that was neatly executed. At least with the Wildings at the Wall, Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch finally have something of substance to do, as opposed to just looking off into the middle distance and cheering themselves up with the knowledge that if a hypothetical Zombie invasion did happen, they’d have the satisfaction of rubbing it into everyone else’s face.
And Tyrion finally gets out of his box, exploring the city of Volantis (which seems to be the Essos equivalent of South-East Asia). It goes about as well as one would expect, with the reappearance of an old face and an ominous appropriation of Daenerys as a Messiah by a Red Priestess. It’s a relief to see Tyriona dn Varys taking part in the plot, but it still feels like we’re waiting for them to reach Daenerys before anything really interesting happens. I’m not unhappy with this plot thread, but my patient is steadily eroding.
It will take till the end of this Season before I can say for sure whether this is among the better seasons in Game of Thrones, but I do appreciate the new pacing and the slow burn to whatever climax is taking place in Season 9. Till next week, have fun.